Back with a Vengeance!

The summer is nearing its end, and the ‘good times’ are coming. Just like most other gambling affiliates, I suffer badly during the months of July and August – less traffic, less rake, and so on. During the 2009 summer I lost about 50% of my income, which scared the crap out of me, but thankfully this year, mainly because of investing a fair amount of money into SEO, I managed to keep a stable income. Fair to say, I hate the summer just as much as I love it!

Thursday we came back from our family vacation. This year we’ve spent two weeks in Estepona (15 km from Marbella) South of Spain. This is also the region we are planning to move to, at least in our dreams (until I convince Lydia that there are plenty of decent schools for our children). The climate is very good all year around, the Spanish people are really friendly, and life over there seems to be a real bargain compared to the Netherlands. And let’s not forget, with a possible government ran by Geert Wilders’ party… who wants to be here after all.

Anyway, the vacation was rather good, although the hotel could have been much better for a four star hotel. The room was nice, the hotel looked nice too, including the pool side, but these douche bags were charging us for about everything you can think of! If you ever think of going to Estepona, think again before booking the Pierre et Vacances – Calendonia Golf Resort.

Three weeks before leaving I decided to do what Tim Ferriss says, the author of the 4-Hour Workweek. I decided to focus on projects that are currently generating the most of my income, to make even more with them, instead of putting my energy into newly launched projects. So I redesigned Poker For Free, the site got a complete overhaul. While I was doing so, I was split testing the homepage to see if the new design outperformed the old one, and it did. So after working day and night for three weeks, I decided to put the site live just before flying to Spain. Quite a risk, but I was so excited that I didn’t want to wait. Fortunately it didn’t turn out to be a bad decision.

While I was gone I used my iPhone to periodically check my e-mail and my statistics, and was happy to find out that Poker For Free’s traffic went up by 50%!!! Of course this had nothing to do with the new site, but all with the $20,000+ which I invested into SEO over the past 8 months. With my site performing so well, I couldn’t wait to get back and work, but on the other hand I was really enjoying the time off with the family – so I let it rest.

As Pursuing Success is my personal and marketing blog, it’s about time that I should write somethings interesting about affiliate marketing, right? So my next blog will be about the new Poker For Free, and what I did prior to merging hundreds of pages into the new site. That’s a promise! But for now I will keep it a little bit more personal though.

While in Spain, I kept going to the gym every other day while Dante went to bed for his siesta. Since I started working out in February, it has become one of my favorite pass times. I managed to lose 7 kg already (my current weight is 82 kg), but I think that it must be at least double as much in fat effectively, as I gained quite a bit in muscles too, obviously. I am now proud to announce that I have a Four-Pack, and it won’t be too long before I get to that much admired Six-Pack!

August 18, 2010 – I’m continuing where I left off 10 days ago, and of course many crazy things have happened in the mean time. God, don’t you love the affiliate life! One of the things that worries me is PokerStars. They are so big and powerful, and think they can keep screwing affiliates… over, and over again. And the shittiest thing about it, is that I have just reinstalled them on Poker For Free, as a service to my US visitors, about 40% of my total traffic. Want to know why I don’t feel comfortable with my recent decision to continue working with PokerStars, please have a look at this PAL thread: PokerStars Partners are Fucking You Over. Read, or scan it, but you will get the point.

Before I left to the South of Spain, I received an email from Barry with Heaven Affiliates. One of my domains, pokerheavenreview.com, infringed their registered trademark, and he politely asked me to take it down, either by handing over the control to them, or redirect it to another domain. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to get something out of it, and asked them for a compensation of $250. Unfortunately they denied it, but in a very decent matter, so I let it rest and told them I would take it down after I got back from vacation. So today I finally moved my Poker Heaven mini-site to its new location, and 301 redirected the old URLs. The new location, DepositPoker.co.uk, is a site I bought from a guy at the forums, which I already wrote something about in one of my previous blog posts.

During my daily workouts sessions at the gym, I have given some special thought to my next blog post. As you could read earlier in this one, my next post will be about redesigning an existing website with reasonable amounts of traffic. I think I might have found a few ideas to come with an interesting article, and with the transition of PokerKamers.nl the other day, the Dutch equivalent of Poker For Free, I also managed to refresh my own memory a little bit. I am actually looking forward to writing it, but I have some other real important things on the agenda first, such as the translation of the almost 3,000 words counting Poker Crusher Review. I shouldn’t be making any more promises, except to my kids!

Screenshot of Externally Linked ImageLast topic, before I call it a day and visit my brother in law for a cup of coffee, is something I discovered while exploring my site’s statistics. I noticed a lot of hits coming from two specific freeroll forums. I am not mentioning their URLs on purpose, because I believe password thieves are about the lowest scum of the affiliate industry you can get. Back to the point, it came to my notice that the hits from these specific referrals were occurring because of an externally linked image causing a 404 error, an image that was deleted when I launched the new Poker For Free site. Today I gave them a Dutch treat, and replaced my image with a new one telling their visitors: “Type pokerforfree.org in your address bar.” I don’t know, and honestly don’t care if I actually get any traffic of it, I just had some fun doing it. Next time you steal from me, or which ever hard working affiliate, think again bitch!

Mixed Feelings

Today was the day Argentina was playing the 2010 FIFA World Cup quarter final game versus Germany. Where I would usually would cheer for Argentina, I kept my fingers crossed for Germany today, as this game would mean the difference between climbing to the first place in the PAL World Cup Pool, or falling further behind to Niko de Jonge. Niko, a young aged internet entrepreneur from Canada, who was first on the ladder up ’till now had Argentina win over Germany, and I picked it the other way around. I now have a five point lead, and have to say it must get really awkward if I am not going to end up with the win. With three more games to come, there are 2 x 16, and 1 x 32 points to earn, but with Brazil out – favorite to many ones – the only real threat is the Netherlands losing from Uruguay in the semis, plus Spain winning it all. I remain unbeatable in any other case, and will strike up a fair amount of money.

Netherlands Team '74
Netherlands Team '74

Of course you should never count yourself a winner too soon, but looking forward to the new office I will lease as of September 1st, any additional cash is more than welcome. And of course, we’re all looking forward to a final where the Netherlands beats the crap out of Germany. I might have been just one year young in ’74, but our revenge will have a darn sweat taste.

So, again there’s been a lot of time between my last post and this one. I just didn’t have a moment any time sooner. It’s past midnight now, and even though I have planned a Sunday morning session at the gym tomorrow morning, I decided that I didn’t want to go to bed just yet. One thing that writing entries on Pursuing Success helps me with is making me think about the things that currently keep me busy, and that’s exactly what makes me focus on the right things tomorrow and the days thereafter.

Let’s start with a few business updates. You might have read in a previous blog that I am working on something big. Well, I am still working on it, and this in fact could become the biggest thing I’ve done to date. Thank goodness I am not into this all by myself, as this is something I am setting up with my friend, my basketball team mate, and my workout buddy Shandell. We both have completely different backgrounds, and especially that’s what intrigues me about this project, which by the way has nothing to do with online gaming. Unfortunately I am not in the position to undisclosed the details yet, but once I am I will be dedicating a separate post to it.

Furthermore, the affiliate business has been level the past few months, and quite frankly, that’s not what I expected after injecting almost 15,000 euro into SEO over the past 6 months. Caffeine seems to be the troublemaker, and I hope that we can surpass this dang problem in the upcoming couple of months, say the summer. The whole situation has given me a lot of stress, as I had to come up with all kind of funky ideas to generate extra cash to keep paying the respectable fees to Stickyeyes.

Internet Gambling SitesThe biggest news from the past few weeks must have been the acquisition of internetgamblingsites.net, an exact match domain for a phrase which I was targeting since the time I was still working together with fellow entrepreneur John Holloway, who owns OnlinePoker.org. I was delighted when I found it up for sale, and didn’t hesitate buying it. I had a bargain buying it from Jim a.k.a. Poker Prop for just $175!

So I created a complete new website, and moved (yes, I 301’ed all the old locations to the new ones) over the good old English version of Casino Warehouse, since I never got the .eu domain to rank well. Together with this move I decided to drop all casinos that I was promoting and were performing (way) under the limit… shocking to say, almost all Playtech casinos. As I had so much left-over content I created another new website to store it. With some more content that I got in exchange for links, I had a new casino portal done in the matter of a few hours: CasinoWarehouse.net. Opposite to Internet Gambling Sites, which is going to end up as one of my main sites, this reincarnation of Casino Warehouse will function as another one of my supplementary sites.

There’s always more to tell about my projects, take iDEAL Poker for instance, another one of my numerous forgotten treasures. I have teamed up with my buddy Alon and his Colleagues from Reef Media to make this one work, without the need to spend tons of money to make it rank myself. Can’t say too much about the deal, but this is a typical win-win situation.

Last but not least I acquired another pair of websites – Deposit Poker, and Deposit Bingo. The former owner moved to Dubai where gambling is against the law, and needed to get rid of his sites asap. I was lucky to pick them up for just $150. However, Weycrest (stay way from this crap UK hosting company) was pretty screwed up and that’s why, after finally being able to transfer the domain names, I eventually received the contents of both sites in chunks, which I had to assemblage myself. Not a very difficult job, but still a little bit time consuming in my overwhelming schedule. The site as we speak is far from ready, no call to actions and such, but in the mean time I am just letting it age in piece.

Despite the fact that business has been great – don’t get me wrong, it is far from going bad, but nothing more than steady – I can’t complain about my personal live. I am still going to the gym about five times per week, and am still loving every bit of it. When I am walking down the street, I feel really good, and when I look into a mirror I can see the results of working out consistently for a straight half a year. Healthy wise could be much better though, as my back has become a serious problem, and even my neck starts to act up a lot lately. After all kinds of treatments I now have an appointment at the hospital next week. Several specialists are going to examine my back, and hopefully they are able to diagnose what’s causing the tremendous pain, and come with some sort of a recovery plan.

Enough for now! Time to get some sleep, but before I am going in, and since it’s only football that matters these days, I would like to share a quote from manager Bobby Robson – which hopefully applies to me one of these days!

“He’s very fast and if he gets a yard ahead of himself nobody will catch him.”

Bobby Robson

Working (Out)

The past two weeks have been awesome. I have invested much more time into my business, than in the past months. I’ve been really working hard to get things done – and I did. It really feels good, and we all know where it eventually will lead to: more money, hence a bigger car.

Besides working harder, I finally took the step to get back at the gym. It must have been more than a year, and since I didn’t play any basketball since September, you can imagine the current shape of my body. I’m currently working out harder than ever before. Four time a week, from Monday to Thursday, I’m lifting weights to work on my arms, shoulders, chest, back and abs. Unfortunately, I have to skip the Friday session, as Mauro has swimming lessons and I have to stay home to take care of Dante. I actually came up with a very cool idea when I was searching the web for supplements such as protein and creatine. I’m probably not the first with what I’ve in mind, but if you can make it in the gaming vertical (which is one of the most competitive), you should be able to make it in any vertical.

It’s already the second year in a row that we have a real winter in the Netherlands. It’s been freezing and snowing a lot since December. I’ve been building igloos in our garden, together with Mauro, and also took him skating a couple of times. Last year he could hardly stand still on the ice, but this year he was seriously moving around. You can imagine how proud I am, and happy to see him enjoy to skate just as much as I do.

When I was a little fellow, I used to play hockey. I was totally crazy about it, I lived hockey during the winters, and was always hanging around the ice court, which was very nearby where I grew up. When I was about 16 years of age, they demolished the skating rink and build a new one on the other side of town. This, and the reason that I was still the shortest (and lightest) kid amongst the other team members, made me decide to quit playing the game I loved so much (a decision I still regret today). I hardly ever went skating again, until five years ago, when I decided to buy a new pair of Bauer (Supreme 5000) skates out of the blue. These were the type of skates I could only dream of as kid. So, every time the opportunity arises to skate on a lake, I’ll take it, and I’ll bring my son along.

In my last post you could read a little bit about how PokerStars Partners are screwing affiliates. Even though they are the official affiliate program for the biggest online poker room in the world, the fact of the matter is that they run the worst possible program for affiliates. Commissions are much, much lower than anywhere else, and now that they have adjusted the terms and conditions, many of us are down up to 65%, hence I finally decided that I don’t want to deal with them any longer.

Poker Bonus Help LogoI (re)moved all PokerStars related content from Poker For Free. However, it would be a shame to junk tons of quality content in four different languages (which is also good for traffic), so I created a new website, which I named my supplementary site, to store all the content I no longer use. Besides PokerStars, I also decided to get rid of two other poker rooms performing way under the limit. This, all mixed up with a good domain name from the shelve, and taking some more content out of retirement, gave me plenty of pages to have a more than decent website right from the start. Even though I am not planning to do anything major with it, I do have to say that I really love what it has become. Curious? Have a look at Poker Bonus Help, and judge for yourself!

I’ve always worked very, very hard, and the harder I worked, the luckier I got.

Alan Bond

Oh by the way, I also gave Online Casino Blackjack [sold] a makeover. It still lacks content, but that’s a matter of time. If you happen to own a Dutch casino related website and want to do some contextual link exchanges, feel free to get in touch.

It’s Been a While

… 39 days to be more precisely. Many things have happened in between my last post and this one. Oh first of all: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Where have I been? Actually nowhere, but I just didn’t feel like blogging. I really don’t feel like it now either, but alas… I owe you one.

So let’s start where we left off, my Apple Sucks post. You won’t believe what happened after I’ve written that post. As you could have read, my girlfriend’s MacBook was having all sorts of problems, so we were planning to drop everything off at MacMe, our local Apple dealer.

In the Dutch language we have a saying that sounds as follows: “Van uitstel komt afstel.” I’m not sure if there’s a comparable saying in the English language, but it translates to something like this: “To delay is to cancel.” Now, this saying relates to us bringing her MacBook, as well as my Time Capsule to the store to have them fixed. We didn’t, and then the following happened.

Something like three weeks ago, Lydia was working on her MacBook at the dining table. I was working upstairs as usual, until she called me to come down immediately because her MacBook made funny noises, and it didn’t want to boot after she restarted OSX. It was definitely a familiar sound. I couldn’t be wrong, it couldn’t be anything else than a failing Hard Drive. Dammit, I hate that sound!

This meant that at this point we didn’t have access to her data any longer, including thousands of family and vacation photos. Even worse, the Time Capsule containing the back-ups also died, remember?

A week earlier, Lydia went to MacMe to see what they could do for us, for our broken Time Capsule, and her broken keyboard. At the moment they were really helpful and offered us to extend the warranty period, so we could get a new Time Capsule. Great!!! This was still possible because our Time Capsule died before it turned 2.

But it got even worse, much worse. As the Hard Drive in Lydia’s MacBook completely died, we brought everything in for reparation. Then the phone rang. Her HD was not accessible anymore, it was deader than dead! The only thing left they could do was ripping the Time Capsule apart, getting the Hard Drive out, placing it into a external storage case, so at least we didn’t lose our data. But, this meant that we would lose the option to extend warranty and get a new Time Capsule.

Mauro and Dante
Mauro and Dante, our boys

It was no matter of discussion. We just wanted our data back, more specifically the pictures of our two beautiful boys; Mauro and Dante. And that’s exactly what they did.

I can’t be more sad about our bad luck, but I have to say that I am really happy about how MacMe helped us out. In the end, they didn’t make us pay for L’s new keyboard, as well as for the research and repair. We only had to pay the hardware, i.e. a new 5Gb Hard Drive and the external storage case. Just €238.95, yet we still have to buy a new Time Capsule.

Now, that’s is superb customer service! Something you won’t frequently see at a regular mega/computer store.

All that’s well, ends well. So, I’m currently planning to buy the 27 inch iMac computer. I just want this sucker to replace my slow as hell PC. These babies don’t only look  good, you can run Windows just as easy on a Mac these days, so who needs a PC. Who was talking about alternatives again?! Apple is awesome! (Until it breaks down.)

What more has been cooking?

I have been playing some online poker (and have been losing some), so I self-excluded myself from playing and save myself some money, but more importantly time and frustration. I still believe I have the required skills to beat the damn game, but I’m just the unluckiest player in the world! (And don’t you dare to call it variance!)

In the affiliate business, PokerStars Partners has been fucking with affiliates. I’d say screw those bastards! I already have put them in final positions and am seriously considering to completely remove them from all my sites. Their numbers are totally ridiculous! Seriously, my advice if you’re considering them: stay away from them and team up with Full Tilt Affiliates for your US traffic.

I didn’t go to the London Affiliate Conference past weekend. Firstly I was planning to go, especially because I’ve never been to London before, but I had no valid reason business wise of being there. Since I’m not a super affiliate yet, I don’t feel like making all kinds of promises to my partners. I rather wait until the moment I can show them some real numbers, and sit and talk then. Stickyeyes is helping me out to make it happen and we’re now seeing some progress.

Last but not least, my dad left for the heat in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was planning to pay him a (surprise) visit, but it’s just too complicated leaving a family back home when mommy has to work. He will surely enjoy his stay in BSAS without me.

Time to call it an end. I’ll try to write my next post sooner.

So long!

Staying Focused and Maximizing Efficiency

Most Internet marketeers I know struggle to stay focused. So do I sometimes. Staying focused when working from home can sometimes be really hard, as there are so many things which may keep you from working, and being your own boss doesn’t really help either. In fact, many of the fellows I know from the online gaming industry play online poker while they really should be working. Even though I have done it too, and when the  occasion occurs, I still do, this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. While some people make a decent living from playing online poker, only a sparse group are really that great that they reach all the way up to the high stakes tables.

Thus the majority of entrepreneurs is simply better off working! Take PokerStrategy, the biggest affiliate in the world, as an example. There isn’t a living sole on earth that makes that kind of money playing online poker. From what I’ve heard, they have a monthly turnover of approximately $8 million dollars. Personally, I’m not working as hard anymore compared to when I just started working for myself, although occasionally I still have my moments. Averaging 60+ hour work weeks will eventually burn you out. Then again, I don’t have to as I’ve learned to be more efficient. For instance, I have outsourced all my writing, and I try to come up with neath things that help me to do more in less time.

Take statistics. Checking your statistics can be a very time consuming action, that’s why many marketing blogs tell you to only do this once every week or so. I know this rule by heart, but still, the first thing I do after making coffee in the morning is checking my stats. I confess, I’m a stats addict!

This morning I decided to invest some time into creating something that I had on my mind for a while, something that helps me out being more efficient in regards to the previously mentioned addiction; a dash board. Since I make use of Piwik (open source analytics program) for all my mini sites, and Piwik has all these handy little widgets which can be implemented and used externally, I created a dash board which displays the most important statistics of the previous day. Besides statistics, my dash board also contains links to the home page, CMS, and the Piwik installation. I predict that my dash board will save me up to 10 minutes a day.

Another thing I once created to become more efficient is LinkAdmin.net. I will dedicate a post to it some other time, as it still isn’t finished for the public, however I’m already using it myself. In a nutshell, LinkAdmin.net  helps me to manage my links; paid links (shame, shame, everybody knows my name), and exchanged links.

Conclusion. Us entrepreneurs enjoy the most of freedom, nonetheless we still have to pay our bills at the end of every month. Loosing focus is easy, but staying focused really pays off. Learn how to do your work more efficiently, and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of time off to spend however you like it.

Let me end this post with a quote.

Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.

Robert Heinlein

The Show Must Go On

Yesterday evening I could feel that my body would not be in best shape today. I felt a cold coming up, as my nose started dripping and every joint in my body was hurting. But as an entrepreneur, a one man show in particular, you don’t want to be in bed. Every lost day is a day behind in schedule.

Fortunately this morning I felt OK. It’s not that I feel great, but at least good enough to do the most important things (and write at least one post in my blog).

However, four weeks ago I had a groin surgery, more specifically a right inguinal hernia surgery, and the surgeons applied the mesh repair method. Basically, this means that they implanted a patch into my right groin to fix a weak spot.

After surgery I expected to be out for a day, or maybe two at most, and then back to work.

Boy, I was so wrong. I’ve camped on the couch for nearly two weeks. Even though I had my laptop, I decided to do the bare minimum. My body obviously needed the rest, and it was actually fun to watch TV. Discovery Channel helped me through the day. I watched programs like Overhauling, Extreme Lodgers, How It’s Made, and such.

Another positive consequence from taking a break was that I had plenty of time to think things over. It actually made me come to the decision to temporarily cease working on my casino and bingo sites, and focus on projects that actually make up my paycheck.

As an Internet marketeer, you have many decisions to make. Many times I’ve made the wrong decision, those that actually have cost me money, in fact if I was smart enough to choose another term than ‘free poker’ years ago, I would have been in fat city. Then again, I had zero experience. But this time I’m confident that I made the right one!

So two weeks ago I started working again. Full throttle. And I’m really glad how things are going, and best of all, I’m much more motivated than I was before my break.

Right Inguinal Hernia Surgery